Dog trained to sniff for pangolins, dead or alive

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Havoc and a pangolin

NEWS AND VIEW: In South Africa, a dog whose name is Havoc, has been trained to sniff out pangolins, dead or alive. The story immediately reminded me of dogs being trained to sniff out the coronavirus in people. A dog’s remarkable sense of smell can be very usefully employed both to save the lives of people and animals. One sniffer dog trained to detect cash in airports detected €250,000 worth of cash in one week.

Havoc and a pangolin

Havoc and a pangolin. Photo: African Pangolin Working Group.

Havoc is a big softy of a dog. His services are needed in South Africa. About 2.7 million pangolins are trafficked from Africa to Asia each year. In Asia, their scales are used in Chinese medicine and their meat is a delicacy.

Comment: I have to comment on that. The scales are made of keratin. Human nails are made of keratin as is human hair. The spines of a cat’s tongue are also made of keratin as are their claws. There is no scientific proof that keratin is any medicinal use. China is very supportive of their traditional medicine and Bejing will doctors who oppose it. Chinese traditonal medicine is perhaps the single biggest threat to wildlife across the globe after habitat loss.

To continue, dogs are being increasingly used to battle the illegal wildlife trade. The trade is estimated to be worth £17 billion per year.

Havoc has only been trained to detect pangolin. He is a very specialised sniffer dog.

All of the world’s eight species of pangolin live in Africa. All of them are endangered and at risk of extinction. Havoc can detect the smell of their scales. He will be deployed to search for pangolins in vehicles and cargo travelling out of South Africa which is one of the established smuggler’s routes.

At the moment Havoc’s skills are an experiment. More dogs will be trained in the future dedicated to saving this persecuted animal.

When live pangolins are rescued they recover in a rehabilitation game reserve managed by the African Pangolin Working Group. Each pangolin is fitted with a tracker. Unfortunately pangolins often break the trackers. Havoc is able to find them nonetheless. He is saving the organisers a lot of time.